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Conflict Looms Over GE-free Labels


Conflict Looms Over GE-free Labels

The Royal Commission on GM proposed the government help industry introduce a voluntary "GE-Free" labelling system to ensure consumers have the basic right to avoid GE-contaminated foods and can exercise that right in-store.

On Thursday 27th November representatives from the food industry, consumer groups, the NZ Food Safety Authority, and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and NGOs will meet for a second time since January 2003 to discuss the issue.

Since the meeting earlier this year when the Life Sciences Network and the Grocery Manufacturers' Association said a labelling regime could take up to 4 years to set up, there is evidence of government agencies creating a "chilling factor" against GE-free labels.

Rather than introducing GE-Free labels as the Royal Commission proposed there has actually been a double standard operating. This has seen secrecy preserved around GE-contaminated food products including baby food, and at the same time a prosecution of one manufacturer who was identified as using 0.02% GE soy in a product labelled GE-free.

There is a growing concern that some sectors of the food industry and government, perhaps pressured by WTO trading interests, are colluding to prevent the introduction of a GE-free labelling system.

" The claims include that it is too late.., that there is nothing that can be guaranteed GE-Free; or even that research with consumers shows they don't care so no GE-free labelling is needed, which is patently untrue," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

The wish of most consumers is to avoid GE. That is made clear by recent announcements from massive companies like the makers of Pam’s and from Goodman Fielder that they have a GE-free policy. Any attempt by pro-GE vested interests in industry or within the government bureaucracy to pretend otherwise is likely create conflict rather than find solutions.


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